Chaudière River

Lake Mégantic Lac-Mégantic, Quebec Lévis, Quebec
Chutes chaudieres.jpg
Chaudiere River basin
Physical characteristics
SourceLake Mégantic
 • locationLac-Mégantic, Estrie
 • coordinates45°34′20″N 70°53′00″W / 45.57222°N 70.88333°W / 45.57222; -70.88333
MouthSaint Lawrence River
 • location
Lévis, Chaudière-Appalaches
 • coordinates
46°44′34″N 71°16′43″W / 46.74278°N 71.27861°W / 46.74278; -71.27861Coordinates: 46°44′34″N 71°16′43″W / 46.74278°N 71.27861°W / 46.74278; -71.27861
Length185 km (115 mi)
Basin size6,682 km2 (2,580 sq mi)
 • average114 m3/s (4,000 cu ft/s)
 • minimum11 m3/s (390 cu ft/s)
 • maximum470 m3/s (17,000 cu ft/s)

The Chaudière River (French for "Cauldron" or "Boiler"; Abenaki Kikonteku) is a 185-kilometre-long (115 mi) river with its source near the Town of Lac-Mégantic, in southeast Quebec, Canada. From its source Lake Mégantic in the Estrie region, it runs northwards to flow into the St. Lawrence River opposite Quebec City.


The river's drainage area is 6,682 square kilometres (2,580 sq mi), initially in the Appalachian Mountains, then in the low-lands of the St. Lawrence, and include 236 lakes covering 62 square kilometres (24 sq mi) and approximately 180,000 inhabitants. Its annual medium flow at the station of Saint-Lambert-de-Lauzon is 114 cubic metres per second (4,000 cu ft/s), varying from 11 cubic metres per second (390 cu ft/s) (low water) to 470 cubic metres per second (17,000 cu ft/s) (spring high water), with historical maximum of 1,760 cubic metres per second (62,000 cu ft/s).

Its principal tributaries are:

The river's basin has nearly 50 percent of the faunal richness of Quebec, namely 330 out of 653 vertebrate species known in the province can be found here.

The river, and the 40-metre-high (130 ft) Chaudière Falls which it passes over en route, are popular outdoor recreation areas.


The Abenaki indigenous people resided close to the Chaudière Falls and named it "Kikonteku", meaning "River of the Fields". On the charts of Samuel de Champlain, it was given the name "Etchemin River" (a name now used for another river whose drainage area borders with that of the Chaudière River). It was called "Rivière du Sault de la Chaudière" for a period of time before it became simply "Rivière Chaudière" towards the end of the 18th century. This name refers to the waterfall close to its mouth.

Its location was strategic for French colonization during the 18th century because the river was a natural link between New France and the British colonies to the south. It was also used by Benedict Arnold at the time of his 1775 expedition in the invasion of Quebec.

In 1823, gold was found along its shores in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.[1]

On 6 July 2013 the Lac-Mégantic derailment caused a major oil spill which contaminated the river at its source at Lac Mégantic.[2] Downstream communities such as Saint-Georges (80 kilometres (50 mi) to the northeast) were forced to obtain potable water from alternate sources and residents asked to limit their water consumption.[3] Floating barriers were installed in an attempt to contain the contamination.

21st century

The Chaudière valley mostly crosses the Beauce area. The river impacts its industries and way of life, particularly during spring run-off, when it frequently overflows into populated areas, in spite of the 160 dams and levees. The river flows through several cities and villages of the area such as Sainte-Marie, Saint-Georges, Beauceville, and Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce.

The river is a popular location for outdoor sports, particularly at Lac-Mégantic and at Parc des Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. Located close to the mouth of the river at Lévis, this park offers cycling and hiking trails, as well as a footbridge suspended above the river which offers a view of the waterfalls.

The falls have been harnessed for hydro-electric power since the beginning of the 20th century. The dam was rebuilt in 1999 on the remains of the old installations, and now consists of a small 24 MW power station.


  1. ^ Law-West, Don. "Gold", in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishing, 1988), Volume 2, p.908.
  2. ^ "1 dead after Quebec train blasts". CBC. July 6, 2013. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  3. ^ "Leaking oil from Lac-Mégantic disaster affects nearby towns". CBC. July 7, 2013. Retrieved July 7, 2013.